Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill that would have required her and future governors to set special election dates for state legislature seats within 30 days following their vacancy, a move Republicans described as unexpected and protective of his own power.
The Republican-led Legislature had pushed legislation forward by former state Representative Andrea Schroeder, a Republican from Independence Township who wanted to ensure voters would not be left without representation in Lansing for long after that a legislator left office early.
Schroeder died on October 1. cancer, and Whitmer announced on December 14 that she would hold special primary and general elections to fill her seat and those of two other lawmakers in March and May, two Republicans and one Democrat.
Following the November 2020 election in which Republican state senses Pete Lucido and Peter MacGregor were elected to county offices, Whitmer waited until January 2021 to announce special primary and general elections for August and November.
“House Bill 4996 places restrictions on the executive branch’s exercise of its constitutional authority,” Whitmer said in his veto statement. “I will not tie the hands of future governors of Michigan.”
Republican leaders and lawmakers were quick to criticize the veto statement issued Friday.
“Rep. Schroeder has always had the best interests of the people at heart – that’s why she sponsored this bill to ensure people would have a voice in the Legislative Assembly in a timely manner when a special election was needed,” said Rep. Mike Harris, R-Clarkston, who eventually won Schroeder’s seat. “House Bill 4996 has won broad bipartisan support in the Michigan House of Representatives. It had nothing to do with limiting a governor’s authority, and I am extremely disappointed that Governor Whitmer would characterize it that way.
House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, also said he was disappointed.
“It’s a complete surprise and a huge disappointment,” Wentworth spokesman Gideon D’Assandro said.
“Andrea Schroeder just wanted to make sure the people who lived in her community were taken care of and weren’t left speechless for months on end. She wanted someone to care for them even when she knew she wasn’t. She wouldn’t be able to do it herself, but apparently that worry and those residents lost out on the governor’s need to protect his own power.
But the Democratic governor said she based her decision on protecting the power of the office, which could be held by Democrats, Republicans or another party.
Whitmer’s Republican predecessor, Governor Rick Snyder has delayed a special primary election to replace former U.S. Representative John Conyers, D-Detroit, for 11 months, though he announced the election date within a week of Conyers stepping down in December 2017.